On Tuesday, August 18 Saucy’s Southern Barbecue and Cuisine celebrated its two year anniversary. Opened in 2018 by cousins Khristian Matthews and Ki’erre Dawkins, the mobile restaurant serves a succinct list of exquisite barbecue staples, delivered with the kind cordiality one might expect after being invited to a Mississippi grill-out. For anyone whose had the pleasure of smelling the barbecue or seeing the long lines gathering around the plumes of smoke rising from the hot pavement outside Diego Pellicer Premium Marijuana, the stand’s popularity should come as no surprise. Spending four days a week on-site, Saucy’s routinely sells out of its ribs, wings, hot links and sides within a matter of hours, with a catering element available for anyone clever enough to commission the cuisine to a function.
After graduating from Mississippi State University with degrees in biology and psychology, Matthews relocated to Colorado to pursue a career in the field. After being disillusioned by stints in both histology and pharmacology labs, he began working in marijuana, noting that big pharma had left a bad taste in his mouth. Feeling that cannabis actually made good on its claims to help people, he began working for Diego Pellicer. While he certainly felt the work there was more fulfilling, it was only a matter of time before the entrepreneurial itch struck. It was then that he called Dawkins.
After a 10-year career working up the ranks in kitchens across Mississippi, Dawkins was working as the kitchen manager at the famed Starkville institution the Hotel Chester. On the fateful call, Matthews pitched Denver as a progressive land of opportunity, critically lacking in the kind of real Southern barbecue both he and his cousin had grown up on. While Dawkins had focused much of his professional experience on regional fine dining, the notion of setting up something the two could call their own was too enticing to pass up. “I only really did barbecue as a backyard thing,” said Dawkins, noting that both his father and grandfather had developed reputations for their grilling skills. The combination of inherited knowledge and refined technique is evident across the menu.
Unlike most of the city’s barbecue joints, which of late have largely favored Texas-style, Saucy’s prepares all its meats over a charcoal grill. “We don’t really smoke our meat in the South, we keep it over low and consistent heat,” said Dawkins.
While the grill-top preparation certainly gives Saucy’s an edge, it’s the house-made wing and classic sauces that really put the dishes over the top. Individual meat plates highlight either ribs ($13), wings ($13) or a hotlink ($10) doused with a generous dose of both classic sauce and yellow mustard. For the full experience, the three meats two sides ($20) combines all three for a plate that transcends both in terms of heft and quality. Sides ($3) include green chili macaroni, sweet baby baked beans, great granny’s green beans and the unmissable teriyaki corn — which coats a properly-grilled cob in sweet sauce, parmesan and oregano.
While the clientele seems to include large swathes of customers from across the city, Matthews says the stand’s popularity is not strictly local. “People come from Iowa grabbing 12 plates,” he smiled.
Keeping in line with their current commitment to spreading cheer, Dawkins and Matthews are planning on launching Saucy’s Southern Premium — a line of infused wing and rib sauces — in the fall. The bottles will each contain 100 mg of THC and will first be sold at Diego Pellicer, with plans to expand as the market allows. “We’re giving people a better way to treat themselves,” said Matthews. While the stand is currently open year-round, the cousins are hoping to spend most of this winter inside, with aims of opening a brick and mortar within the year.
Saucy’s Southern Barbecue and Cuisine is located at 2949 West Alameda Ave., Denver. It is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. – all the food is sold, usually between 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.